Fish and Wildlife Service revises eagle retention policy

BY STAFF REPORTS
08/15/2019 04:00 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
In this 2013 photo, Cherokee Nation citizen Gary Siftar of the Raptor Center in Broken Arrow, Okla., releases an adult male eagle back into the wild near Kerr Lake in Sequoyah County after nearly 19 months of rehabilitation. In August, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service revised its policy regarding the retention of eagle remains on lands within Indian Country by allowing tribes to retain bald and golden eagle remains found on these lands under certain conditions and with the proper permits. SHARON GWIN/CHEROKEE NATION CITIZEN
WASHINGTON – According to an Aug. 13 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service press release, the federal department is revising its policy regarding the retention of eagle remains on lands within Indian Country by allowing tribes to retain bald and golden eagle remains found on these lands under certain conditions and with proper permits.

According to the release, in 2017, the Fish and Wildlife Service hosted in-person and telephone consultation opportunities for federally recognized tribes. During the consultations, tribal citizens requested the ability to retain bald and golden eagle remains found on their lands. The Fish and Wildlife Service has revised its policy to accommodate this request.

The updated policy has three goals: authorize the retention of eagles found by a tribe’s citizens in Indian Country, enhance eagle conservation on these lands and avoid unnecessary human health or safety challenges that some deceased eagles pose, the release states.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is honored to have the ability to support tribes’ spiritual, religious and cultural pursuits by authorizing the retention of eagle remains found by federally recognized tribal members on their lands,” Principal Deputy Director Margaret Everson said. “By working together, we hope to conserve bald and golden eagle populations for future generations.”

Under the updated policy, a federally recognized tribe must receive a permit prior to possessing eagle remains found within Indian Country. When a tribal citizen or an employee of a federally recognized tribe discovers eagle remains, he or she must report it immediately to tribal or Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement officials.

Eagle remains found and reported may be eligible for return to the federally recognized tribe for religious purposes after the Fish and Wildlife Service completes any activities it deems necessary for law enforcement or for scientific management reasons, the release states.

If the Fish and Wildlife Service or a tribal law enforcement officer designated by the Fish and Wildlife Service determines that the eagle was not taken intentionally and human health risks aren’t suspected or known, it may be transferred directly to the respective federally recognized tribe as long as the proper permits are in place, the release states.

Bald and golden eagles are protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Lacey Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Certain activities such as harassing, killing or selling these species are strictly prohibited. Eagles that are unlawfully taken, diseased, poisoned or part of an ongoing investigation will not be eligible for distribution.

John Tahsuda, Interior principal deputy assistant secretary of Indian Affairs, said because of its “intrinsic beauty, skill and courage,” the eagle is a valued symbol of America and has long been venerated in many tribal cultures throughout Indian Country.

“Indian Affairs staff have worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and tribal nations on a common-sense approach to the handling of bald and golden eagle remains found on tribal lands,” Tahsuda said. “This updated eagle remains retention policy respects tribal cultural and religious practices while protecting eagle populations now and in the future.”

Joe Grogan, White House Domestic Policy Council director, said the Trump administration is proud to acknowledge the significance of the eagle in many tribal cultures.

“This new policy honors that significance as well as the commitment tribal governments have displayed leveraging their sovereignty, in concert with the United States, to safeguard the bald eagle and other eagle species of religious importance in tribal communities,” Grogan said. “It also cuts back needless bureaucratic red tape. The White House thanks the Department of the Interior for leading the way to this sensible new policy.”

More information regarding the Fish and Wildlife Service’s eagle retention policy is at: https://www.fws.gov/nativeamerican/eagle-retention-policy.html.

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